So, let me introduce myself. My name is Johmaalya Adelekan, mom of two. Today I hold the title of Special Needs Program Coordinator at Gateway Academy, a private, Christian, Pre-K through 8th Grade school where my kids attend. Six years ago, I was Johmaalya Adelekan, mom of two and actor, who had graced the stages of Broadway, Off-Broadway, National Tours, Regional Theaters and Concert Halls all around the U.S. and Canada. What happened, you ask? One word, AUTISM.
The day my son was diagnosed with autism was the day my world came to a screeching halt. I didn't know what to do or what to say. Like so many stories I have heard from parents over the years, our diagnosis came with no compassion and no hope. I was left holding my son who couldn't speak, couldn't point, who stared into space and spun the wheels of his toys. He was physically ill with seemingly unrelated diseases and disorders and his only form of communication was to cry and scream.
Do you know what it's like to mourn for a child like he is dead, yet he is still alive and staring at you with eyes pleading for help? If you have a child diagnosed with autism, then the answer is yes! That is how I mourned for my son. I was immobilized by fear. When that diagnosis comes, so does the death of every dream you've had for your child since the moment you found out you were pregnant. The first bike rides, the little league team, the tons of friends and sleepovers, the prom, the high school graduation, college, the wedding, the grandkids and the list goes on. All the things we as parents take for granted when we envision the future of our children. Now, instead of will he be a lawyer or a doctor, will he run track or play football, will he go to Harvard or Yale, I was asking will he ever speak, will he be able to make friends, will he ever say "mommy, I love you," and will my child have to be dependent on me for the rest of his life?
These are the questions that parents must face when their child is diagnosed with autism. But I'm here to tell you, THERE IS HOPE! It's been six years since we got our life-altering news and now, the future of my son is so bright. It has been a very difficult journey and we are still in the trenches. But as we journey on this road together, I hope to share with you a bit of the knowledge I have acquired along the way. The therapies that we tried, the common medical issues we discovered and treated, how I got the Board of Education to give our son his much-needed services and how my faith helped me persevere when things just seemed unbearable. I hope that you will benefit from my experiences and know that you are not alone in this battle against autism.
So, as for Johmaalya the actor? I'm still pounding the pavement as we actors do. LOL! However, six years in the school of special needs hard knocks has grown me into a passionate advocate for autism. I'm working not just to help my son now, but any child or family that has been affected by this epidemic. I hope to bring you a little hope, a little laughter and a little something maybe you didn't know to help you fight for the future of your child. So, until we chat again, please remember, there is hope!